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Compugen enters the DNA chip production market; Celera offered the Israeli government to buy the use of

The Israeli company Compugen will begin designing DNA Biochips to be manufactured and marketed by Motorola - this is stated in the agreement signed by the companies yesterday (Tuesday). Under the agreement, Motorola customers will receive access to Compugen's database. This is Compugen's first entry into the DNA chip manufacturing market. "We bring the content, and Motorola brings the technological capability," said VP of Business Development at Compugen, Dr. Michal Preminger

Motorola's main competitor in this area is the American company Epimatrix, whose annual sales amount to approximately 200 million dollars. Chip manufacturers from the electronics field, including Motorola and Agilent, are trying to enter the DNA chip market due to its expected growth in the coming years.

DNA chips are chips that are manufactured using semiconductor manufacturing technology, and are used to perform experiments in biology. The chips contain arrays of thousands of short DNA chains, and make it possible to perform many genetic experiments at the same time and efficiently. Today the DNA chips are used for research purposes, but in the future it is estimated that they will also be used for medical diagnosis purposes. Compugen will also provide Motorola with tools to analyze the results of the experiments on the Internet.

Compugen is traded on the NASDAQ stock exchange according to a company value of 192.3 million dollars. In the first nine months of 2000, its sales amounted to approximately 3.6 million dollars, 67% more than in the corresponding period last year. Compugen shares are currently trading at a price of about $7.6, compared to about $17.6 per share in September.

The biotechnology company Celera proposed to the government to sign an agreement for the use of the company's database. The proposal was forwarded to the Director General of the Prime Minister's Office, Yossi Kuchik, during his visit to the US about two weeks ago. Kuchik agreed with the president of the company and its chief scientist, Craig Venter, that during his visit to Israel he would meet with the Prime Minister, Ehud Barak, to promote the matter.
According to Kuchik, Celera's leaders clarified at the meeting that they had begun talks with governments in order to sign agreements for the use of the company's database. Apparently this is an agreement to open the database to government ministries and academic researchers and not to the private sector. In accordance with its sales policy, Celera sets higher rates for private companies than for research institutions.
Celera is considered the leading company in the world in decoding the human genome, and the major competitor of the American and British public projects. The company's database is larger than that of the public project.
The heads of the company said that the company had deciphered 95% of the mouse genome, which serves as an important research model on the way to deciphering the human genome, while the public project only deciphered 15% of it. About a month ago, the Weizmann Institute signed an agreement with Celera to use its database.

By Naama Kopelman and Ora Koren, Haaretz. The knowledge site was until 2002 part of the IOL group

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